Last Friday, to a group of students, community professionals, faculty and staff, Professor Ann Hill Duin shared case studies from her career at the University as well as background on why collective leadership is necessary for many endeavors. Many of this year's forums have focused on individual case studies or research initiatives, and how integrative and shared leadership played a role in that scenario or affects how we use the research going forward as a public community. Professor Duin's, however utilized her professional experience at the University, in a variety of roles and difficult tasks including college restructurings and ambiguous technology initiatives to enlighten strategies for change and the times when being strategic in how you lead makes all the difference.
One helpful strategy when considering how to select a leadership structure is to decide what type of change or initiative is at hand. While we often look to one hierarchical leader to guide us through difficult changes, in business and in public life, this may not be what is most effective. In cases where a large scale strategic or transformative change needs to occur, leadership responsibilities need to shift and often become shared between various individuals or groups. Professor Duin and forum participants all shared personal cases where singular leadership was misaligned with the needs of the organization and shared leadership strategies, though messy, were more effective in establishing change that would be lasting and respected by all the parties involved. This type of buy in is often needed in the University setting, even though the academy leans strongly towards hierarchical leadership reliance. Whether restructuring colleges and departments to be a more competitive and well aligned university to developing ways for various technology centers to work together to delineate responsibilities, meet the needs of users, and continue evolving with the fast pace of new technology offerings, developing inroads for collaborative co-leadership is key to making broad innovative changes.
While shared leadership can be difficult to build within a team, requiring a high level of trust and a variety of skills and influences, it is possible and highly touted by those who have witnessed it or been a part of it. Challenges to shared leadership inherently include the need for hierarchical leaders to inspire and encourage more horizontal leadership, which includes taking themselves out of the equation sometimes, and that shared leadership groups should inherently develop and dissolve based on the tasks at hand, which make recognition and formal structure or positions hard to assign. But these challenges are worth over-coming it seems, and the March Friday forum certainly left me, as well as others in attendance I believe, inspired to continue the march forward into less vertical and more collaborative leadership for better communities and more effective change initiatives in the future.
Slides and resources from the forum can be found here thanks to the tech savvy and knowledge sharing nature of Ann Hill Duin.
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